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CSN President Michael Richards speaks at a technology lab dedication on Sept. 19, 2012. (Photo courtesy of csn.edu)
CSN President Michael Richards speaks at a technology lab dedication on Sept. 19, 2012. (Photo courtesy of csn.edu)

CSN President Criticized by Regents for Mishandling Financial Aid

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College of Southern Nevada President Michael Richards was scrutinized by Regents Cedric Crear and Allison Stephens at the Board of Regents meeting on March 6 about the lack of financial aid disbursement.

During the 2011-2012 school year students who were supposed to receive financial aid either received none, or less than half of the aid they were supposed to receive. Financial aid was also given to students that were not supposed to receive any.

“I like Dr. Richards a lot. However, the biggest issue right now is regarding the financial aid error. It’s mentioned but it doesn’t seem to be highlighted,” said Crear, in reference to Richards’ evaluation. “It’s a very very big issue. Almost $2 million was misappropriated.”

“That’s giving federal dollars to someone who is supposed to have it or not supposed to have it, and that’s a mess,” Stephens said. “The problem is not that people don’t make mistakes and that no one is perfect. I think the question comes down to is there ever going to be some sort of disciplinary action that comes from the chancellor for the board.”

The board was split, with Crear and Stephens questioning the lack of disciplinary action and Regents James Dean Leavitt and Kevin Melcher standing behind President Richards.

“No one is more upset about that situation than President Richards himself,” Melcher said. “It’s a hard thing to have to take care of. I think it’s being handled as well as it can be handled.”

Regent Leavitt brought up the fact that CSN opened in 1971 and has had only 16 presidents.

“What the Board of Regents at that time wanted more than anything else was stability,” Leavitt said. At that time, he states, stability was the most widely held virtue. It was a time of upheaval for the CSN campuses. “It needs to be mentioned that the person most responsible for that healing was President Richards. He has done an absolutely fantastic job in unifying the institution.”

“It’s unfortunate that I don’t see some of these qualities coming out when I interact with President Richards or when we’ve seen him,” Stephens said. “I would have to somewhat reservedly agree with Regent Crear about the situation with the financial aid at CSN.”

The regents voted unanimously to give Richards a three-year contract extension through June 30, 2019 with a salary of $278,000.

“When we continue to just say ok, slap on the hand, let’s go forward with a new contract. That does not serve us well as a system, and I don’t know that that serves us well as a governing body to just continue to let that go on,” Stephens said.

“If we are looking at prohibited activities as a falsification of employment obligation, insubordination, intentional misrepresentation… if you literally get conviction of any criminal act of moral turpitude, you shouldn’t really be working anywhere on our campuses,” Crear said.

According to Chairman Kevin Page they are essentially dealing with two different property rights. As members of the board, they can terminate Richards as a president at any time. He would no longer receive his salary as president, “But as a tenured professor of the college he has a property right as a tenured professor and would have to be terminated in accordance with the provisions… for termination of tenured professors,” Page said. He states that this could constitute reason for termination but, “that would have to be a separate proceeding.”

Richards says he looks at the evaluation process and report as a blueprint for CSN’s future. He received the evaluation three months before the regents meeting.

“I want you to know that I have taken those recommendations very seriously. I have been working on them since Dec. 12, and we are chipping away at them,” Richards said. “I appreciate the official opportunity now to engage in this process.”

Richards intends for CSN to bring a number of plans and initiatives to the board to help serve students better.

“I would ask for the board’s careful consideration of those ideas, those plans and initiatives and supporting the endeavors to improve CSN,” he said.

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